Kenmerk stopped broadcasting a decade ago. IKON the broadcaster of the Protestant churches in The Netherlands, since after World War Two had their last broadcast in December 2015, after a restructuring of the broadcasting landscape by the Dutch Government.
Kenmerk was not only the outlet for Hennie’s films, but also where I learnt my own trade. I trained there as a young documentary filmmaker and that time influenced my way of approaching documentary film making, and my way of approaching subjects and people I dealt with.
We tried to let the form of the documentary reflect the Kenmerk style: A simple straightforward style using black and white with a simple message – letting the voice of the oppressed be heard.
The editing style reflects this form and era. It was a time when the world was seen in back and white – in good guys and bad guys. That black and white also translates into the layout and style of editing. We opted to not use any fast or racy modern editing styles or gadgets. We used freezes to stop the archive and return to the present to reflect on the past.
We also took a conscious decision to not cut into the archive footage or change it in anyway or use it for our own sequences. There is one exception at one point where the violence of the last years of apartheid works like a dream-like scene and where no natural sound except for the lamenting song Thina we Sizwe – What have we done? is used-…. We treated the archive footage as historical documents – the commentary of the time telling its own story of those decades and being part of the feel of that era.
It was also a time when especially South African journalists had to make up their minds which side they were on. As the former cameraman of Hennie Serfontein and later Head of News and Current Affairs at South Africa’s state broadcaster Jimi Matthews says in the film – "Hennie placed himself firmly on the side of the oppressed".
Interviewing Hennie’s former colleagues was also for me a personal journey down memory lane. As a journalist and filmmaker I lived through those last terrible apartheid years of which we all carry some scars. Journalist Sylvia Vollenhoven says in the film that journalism during that time I was like dancing on a minefield
One of the choices I made as the director was that I did not appear in the film going against the grain of the current trend in documentaries for the director to assume a role in the film. I resisted all efforts to state my relationship to the film or to put myself in the film. Therefore we also opted not to have my name at the beginning of the film - so as to not distract the viewers. I strongly felt that it was a film about Hennie and Kenmerk, not about me and that they should take a central place. And that their story is strong enough to be carried without me and that putting myself in the film would only distract.
We also stuck within
the time frame of the 13 years not looking at what happened to some of the main
characters after 1990 but ending with the end of apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela.